The Inverted Forest as just that, a forest that had been inverted. A thick metal shell, about 10km in diameter, with a hollow interior, its insides lined with thorny trees and murky undergrowths, lit by a dull, miniaturized sun that barely pumped put enough light or heat to even be considered real. This curious domain had been one of many ‘sphere gardens’ made by Life Goddesses of the past, but the entire sector had been abandoned in the distance past due to infighting between deities.
Over the vast spaces of time, these sphere gardens had been left unchecked, each one growing in rather dramatic and terrifying ways. The creatures inside had feasted on each other, becoming hideous shadows of their former selves, threatening to consume and corrupt the space around them. But as time passed, most life became extinct, except for those traces of corruption. Occasionally, a group of well-meaning beings would try to curb the infestation, only to ever make a small dent in the mass before pulling away, giving up on the tooth-filled monsters of the sphere gardens.
Clearly, the Inverted Forest was not a safe place to be. Yet, shivering in the darkness, three Decaylings huddled together, none of them really sure where they were, their only clue being a small, holographic message.
“You are not alone. Move and fight until you are alone.”
A small light illuminated the three Decaylings. Retvik, the largest of the three, had created a campfire, something to keep them warm and safe while they tried to work out what was going on. Nothing seemed quite right. Not just the horrific, dark, murky surroundings, but the Decaylings themselves felt different. Was it just the fear and confusion, or was it something else?
“So we are being hunted…” Litvir frowned, pulling his cape around himself. “I guess we should be thankful that they let us keep our weapons, as they seem to have left us with nothing else…”
Before Litvir could finish his musings, something hissed, leaping out of the air towards the Decaylings. But whatever it was, it helplessly collapsed on the floor, sliced in two. Arkay put away his blade, sighing loudly.
“We just have to kill literally everything in here. Shouldn’t be that bad…”
“Seems rather bad to me!” Litvir tutted. “We have literally just woken up, with no food or shelter or anything aside from our weapons and the clothes and armour on our bodies, and told that we have to kill to survive. This is rather high on the “things being bad” scale.”
Arkay shrugged, looking up to Retvik. “You have no problem killing things, right?”
“Only if they are trying to kill me first…”
“Well, everything here probably is.”
Something else hissed and leaped at the Decaylings, this time being swatted away by one of Litvir’s telekinetic blasts. Already, Litvir was rather unamused. “How many living beings do you think are in this, uh… sphere?”
Retvik and Arkay both glanced around, taking a moment to inspect their surroundings.
“Are we… inside a sphere?” Retvik asked, his confused expression only vaguely visible in the flickering light.
“Maybe?” Arkay wasn’t so sure himself. “There don’t seem to be any hills or landmarks but everything just curves vaguely upwards. All I see are trees, swamps, trees and more swamps.”
“Wonderful…” Litvir grunted, glancing down at whatever he had just brutally killed. “Do we have a plan of sorts? Or are is the plan to literally murder everything here?”
The Decaylings all fell silent, none of them having any real certainty in their thoughts. Finally, someone spoke.
“We should find a place to shelter,” Retvik grunted, picking up his staff. “It is dangerous to be out in the open. If we build ourselves a base of operations, then we can more concisely… uh, exterminate this entire forest.”
“Sounds good to me, I guess!” Arkay shrugged. “Which way do we go, though?”
“We are not splitting up!” Litvir spat. “Maybe we should just… pick at random.”
“Considering this is a sphere, we’ll all end up back in the same place no matter what way we go…” Arkay turned to Retvik. “You’re the one with the reliable light source, you pick a direction.”
Retvik took a deep breath, once again checking his surroundings. Pretty much every direction looked the same in terms of landmarks, but at least the area to his left looked a little less bumpy.
“We will go this way, for now. But I will leave this campfire here, as a point of reference. Let me dig a small trench around it so it does not burn the whole forest down, and we can set off.”
“Good idea…” Arkay and Litvir both frowned. “Shame we don’t have a map…”